Your Charleston Summer Reading List

The long, lazy days of summer are the perfect time to kick back and relax with a good book. Whether you plan to visit the Holy City in the coming months or are just missing her soulful beauty, these Lowcountry-centric novels will have you pining for a return trip. Catch up with an old favorite, dive into an easy pool-side read or immerse yourself in the area’s history with our Charleston reading list.

Fiction
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
Considered one of Charleston’s favorite sons, Pat Conroy was a New York Times best-selling author and writer of such well-known novels as The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. Set mostly in Charleston, South of Broad details the life of Leopold Bloom King and his close group of friends. Conroy’s beautiful prose of the Lowcountry landscape endears his readers to the locations he details.

All Summer Long by Dorthea Benton Frank
The journey of a charming New York couple’s move to the South is captured throughout this novel. Frank creates a magical story about how life is full of unexpected changes, when the couple plans to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina for a more peaceful life. This irresistible read features the iconic Belmond Charleston Place, as well as its award-winning restaurant, Charleston Grill.

Culture
Very Charleston
Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture and Lowcountry Charm by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler
Through many vibrant watercolors and visually detailed sketches, Dinana Gessler conveys Charleston’s unique beauty. The book includes rich detail on almost everything from the art of entertaining to the city’s renowned architectural and garden designs. Very Charleston is a fascinating read that has become an entertaining guide incorporating maps, an index and a handy appendix of sites for visitors and Charlestonians alike.

Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Philip Simmons by John Michael Vlach
Renowned blacksmith Philip Simmons is the city’s most celebrated ironworker and has fashioned more than five hundred decorated pieces of ornamental wrought iron. The author details the methods, motifs and materials used by Simmons to create some of the city’s most treasured pieces. His mastery of the craft is displayed in the more than one hundred photographs found in his book along with a map to see the ironwork in Charleston.

Cookbooks
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The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Written by two brothers who grew up in the very heart of historic downtown Charleston, this book is a reflection of the city’s vibrant food culture. There are 100 recipes, 75 colorful photographs and numerous personal stories that introduce readers to the city’s exciting Southern cuisine. This cookbook is sure to inform readers of some of the best recipes Charleston has to offer.

Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Night by Sallie Ann Robinson
Born and raised on Daufuskie Island, author Sallie Ann Robinson highlights some of her favorite memories and family recipes from life on the island. Well-known for its Gullah culture, the islanders traditionally ate what they could grow, catch and hunt. The unique food traditions of the Gullah people, containing African, European and Native American influences, can still be found today in Lowcountry cuisine.

Charleston Receipts

Charleston Receipts by The Junior League of Charleston
This well-known Charleston cookbook was first published in 1950, and it is the oldest Junior League cookbook that can still be found i print. The collection contains more than 750 recipes, sketches by Charleston artists and Gullah verses. The renowned cookbook incorporates some of the most unique recipes from the city’s past.

History
The H.L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy by Tom Chaffin
The legend of the H.L. Hunley, a Civil War submarine that sank the Union’s USS Housatonic and then vanished before returning to port in the waters off of Charleston, has intrigued generations. Historian and author Tom Chaffin presents an extremely thorough yet entertaining tale of the submarine’s fate and its subsequent recovery.

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Charleston!! Charleston!: The History of a Southern City by Walter J. Frazier Jr.
This extensive read traces the history of Charleston from its creation in 1670 and ends with the effects of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Author Walter Frazier touches on every facet of the city; its people and institutions; its art and architecture; its recreational, social, and intellectual life; its politics and city government. All shaping the city we know and love today.

We hope that you enjoy the rich detail found in these delightful books. If you find yourself in the Holy City, we recommend visiting these great local bookstores: Belmond Boutique, Preservation Society of Charleston and Blue Bicycle Books. Belmond Boutique is found in The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place. The preservation Society of Charleston is a non-profit dedicated to recognizing and promoting local artists and designers. Blue Bicycle Books is Charleston’s premier locally-owned bookstore selling unique authors and genres.

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Interview with Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate

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Charleston is well known for its blossoming culture and arts scene; from its well-preserved historic architecture, unique but approachable dining experiences, live music in cozy bars like the Thoroughbred Club, or the countless art galleries lining our historic streets, Charleston’s creativity resonates throughout the city. One art form in particular has come to the forefront of much of this creative spirit, and it is mostly due to Marcus Amaker, a creative who has spent his life dedicated to the arts and music. We reached out to Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, to hear a little bit about what inspires him and some tips on how you can experience Charleston’s creativity.

How and when did you first get into poetry?
Vinyl. I first got into poetry the second that I heard music, as a child. My parents were very aware of giving me experiences with art and music. There was always vinyl around our house, and we were always going to concerts. Vinyl packaging was essential to my love of the written word, because lyrics were printed on all of my favorite album sleeves.

You are currently the City of Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. Why was this position created and what does it entail?
This position was created to promote literacy in our schools and to be an advocate of the arts. I am so honored to have the title. I’m now at the table for important decisions involving our arts scene. I’m asked to write poems for events and do a lot of workshops in schools. Connecting with students has been the most rewarding part.

You have had so many artistic endeavors over the course of your career. What inspires you to be constantly creating? 
Everything goes back to music. Listening to it, creating it, seeing it live. Music is the key to everything I do. The poems I write are songs without instrumentation. The graphic design that I creative has visual keys and rhythm. I’m totally plugged into sound and song.

You have produced poetry books, videos, workshops of all kids, what do you have in the works currently?
I’m currently working on a few new albums and producing our city’s first poetry festival. The albums are experimental electronic works, using analogue machines. The poetry festival will be in the fall of this year and will involve workshops and public displays of poetry plus events for all ages.

How does Charleston inspire your creative process?
Once settled in Charleston, it was impossible to not be inspired by this city. I feel the stories of our ancestors every time I walk down the street. I am in touch with the ghosts of our past and aware that we have to keep history alive, while moving forward. I can thank Charleston for an awakening that I would not have had in any other city

How can visitors get involved in the art scene?
There are so many entry points to our art scene. I love Redux Contemporary Art Center. They are putting on progressive shows using all kinds of mediums. The Halsey Institute is also an amazing spot for anyone looking to check out the visual arts.

What is your favorite spot in the Charleston area right now and what would you suggest for visitors to do while they are here?
My favorite spot in Charleston is the Upper Deck Tavern. The best dive bar in town. I’d love for visitors to visit the upper peninsula and go to Hampton Park. It’s the most beautiful park in the city, and there’s a wealth of history there. The Denmark Vessey statue is remarkable.

Do you have a poem you would like to share with our readers?
“the last word”

one day, 
someone will write
the last poem about injustice
and it will become 
our new national anthem. 
only history books
will hold the memory of hatred
and museums will be built
for the artifacts
of our awakening

one day,
someone will have
the last conversation about politics
because we realized 
there were problems 
that our politicians couldn’t fix. 
policies not built
to cure our addiction to division, 
no governing body
that compared to the bodies 
of the enlightened.

one day,
this poem won’t be
a manifesto for dreamers. 
we will wake up from nightmares
of our own making
and reject our attraction 
to darkness;
our love affair
with conflict.

You can stay up-to-date on Amaker’s upcoming events and and projects at his website.

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Pictured above: The second edition of Mantra featuring new graphic design, poetry and artwork. Among the new poems in the book is “Reimagining History” – written with Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina. “Reimagining History” was commissioned by Charleston, SC Mayor John Tecklenburg for his inauguration.

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Hidden Treasures in Charleston

From Rainbow Row to the Pineapple Fountain, Charleston is full of charming scenes that are postcard ready. As iconic as these sites are, there remains many hidden treasures that may go unnoticed in the city. Explore the unique and secret gems embedded within this historic mecca to showcase a peek other may not have seen before. Tread lightly off the beaten path and discover these delightful hidden sights in Charleston.

Philadelphia Alley

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Journey back in time as you stroll along Philadelphia Alley. Nestled in-between Cumberland and Queen Streets, the 1766 narrow cobblestone passageway is known not only for its Colonial history, but has made its way into pop culture. Watch closely and you will catch a glimpse of the alley in Charlestonian Darius Rucker’s “Comeback Song” music video. 

 

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Throughout Charleston, ivy can be seen spreading her bounty not only on trees, but also climbing brick walls for endless feet. The lush foliage makes the perfect backdrop for a summer photo perfect for Instagram.

 

Gates

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Detailed and ornate wrought iron gates are the entryway to the classic Charlestonian lifestyle. From balconies to stair railings, vents and decorative panels, finely crafted ironwork has been an architectural treasure since the early 1900s. Daniel Island native and blacksmith, Philip Simmons, turned iron gates into an artform, incorporating delicate nature inspired patterns into his designs. These special gates can be found on display at the Smithsonian, as well as museums in China and Paris.

 

Doors

Snap, crackle, pop – Charleston treasure can be found in the simplest forms. Snap a photo of a cracked open door that’s coated in a pop of color, and you’re sure to capture a memorable view. Take a walk along the Battery and along the way, take in the array of gorgeous doors lining the streets.

 

Window Boxes

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Outside Charleston’s antebellum dwellings sit windows overflowing with a blooming surprise of colorful flowers. In a historic district where front yards are few and far, these window boxes are the perfect gardening eye candy to welcome visitors.

 

Cobblestone

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Small treasures can be found anywhere in Charleston, even right beneath your toes. Steps away from Rainbow Row, you’ll find South Adgers Wharf. While many streets were modified with flatter, rectangle bricks, this street’s beautifully preserved authentic cobblestone adds charm and texture to the city’s history.

 

Randolph Hall

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Located in the heart of the College of Charleston campus, Randolph Hall has seen students and faculty serving in the Confederacy during the Civil War. The iconic Charleston building is a National Historic Landmark and is an often overlooked grand building in the heart of the city.

 

Charleston is a treasure trove of charm and beauty. From a simple flower to an ornate gate, surround yourself in the wonders of the city.

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